Sunday, January 31, 2016

Appliances Don’t Qualify for the Energy Credit & Other Tax Tips

To stay informed of changes to the tax code, I attend an annual tax update seminar every January. Here are a few tips I learned from this year’s event:

The personal energy credit has been extended:

The $500 lifetime credit (10% of cost up to $500) for energy efficient improvements has been extended until 12/31/16.  I am excited about this one since we installed a new furnace and water heater in 2015 – although $500 doesn’t come anywhere close to covering 10% of what we spent. 

It is important to note appliances do not qualify as an energy efficient improvement despite the sales rep at your local appliance store* insisting they do.  According to Energy Star, upgrades to biomass stoves, air source heat pumps, central air conditioning, gas, propane, or oil hot water boilers, gas propane or oil furnaces and fans, insulation, roofs, water-heaters (non-solar) windows, doors and skylights do qualify if they are upgraded in an existing home that is your principal residence. New Construction and rentals do not apply.

Audits of charitable donations are on the rise:

Our speaker, who works as a tax preparer, has seen an increase in client audits of charitable donations in recent years. To make sure your donations are not disallowed make sure you have proper documentation.

For Cash donations under $250 you will need a cancelled check, credit card receipt or written communication from the charity.

Cash gifts over $250 must be substantiated by the charity. 

Noncash donations under $250 must be supported by receipt, written communication from the charity or written records.

$250 or over must be substantiated by the charity.

$500 or over must include acquisition detail.

$5000 or over requires written appraisal.

Documentation requirements:

Written support must include the name and location of organization, date of donation, description, value and condition.

Those coupons you receive with only a date stamp when you drop your donations off at a goodwill or charity drop boxes are not considered adequate substantiation. Our speaker has seen these types of donations disallowed.  With those coupons the IRS cannot verify you actually donated ten sweaters, they were worth $25 and were in excellent condition. Instead she recommends dropping items off at the charity’s main location the requesting applicable documentation.  If that isn’t possible she suggests taking photos of your donations.

You can stack these childcare deductions:

Child and dependent care credit

The child and dependent care credit is allowed for children under age 13 and other qualifying dependents.  Eligible expenses are limited to $3000 for one dependent, $6000 for two or more. Income limits do reduce the credit, but don’t phase it out completely.

Flexible spending FSA deductions

Take advantage of employer sponsored flexible spending FSA deductions.           You can contribute up to $5000 in employer sponsored FSA account.  The FSA plan then reimburses your dependent care expenses using pre-tax dollars.

You can’t use the same child care expenses for both the credit and the FSA deduction, but you can stack them.  Meaning if you have $8000 of annual expenses you can deduct $3000 as a tax credit and be reimbursed $5000 from an FSA plan.  Just remember a portion of the dependent care credit could be phased out due to income limits.

*According to an auditor I know who used to audit appliance stores the mark-up on appliances is 300%.

Do you have any tax saving tips to share?

Disease Called Debt

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Should Mom Pay for Daughter’s Blue Hair?

 Kim asks:

While home from college over winter break, my 20-year old daughter asked for $300 to get her hair highlighted blue.  My husband refused to pay for such a ridiculous expense. She then stormed out of the house spending most of her remaining break with friends.  We’ve paid for her hair styling in the past, but she usually didn’t spend more than $75.   

My husband and daughter have a history of conflict beginning two years ago when he took away her phone and car until she broke up with her boyfriend - who we both thought was a loser.  She broke up with him a month later right before she left for college. The relationship between my daughter and husband hasn’t been the same since. We pay her tuition and give her $400 a month spending money.  She uses this money to pay her rent which is $300 and to buy food.  She also has a credit card.  I’ve been paying her credit card bill each month which has been as high as $600 and am starting to resent it.  My husband thinks I’m spoiling her and that she needs to pay her card with her own money. I would like her to save her money for graduate school.

We also don’t like her new boyfriend, but I won’t let my husband force another break up.  She was so cold towards him the last time. I want my daughter to be successful and happy what should I do?

Should Kim pay for her daughter’s blue highlights?
I asked my own stylist if blue highlights were popular at her salon.  They are not, her salon doesn’t even stock blue dye. Blue highlights are expensive because it requires a two-step process that involves stripping the natural color from your hair then adding the blue color. She doesn’t recommend blue because it requires a lot of maintenance to keep blue looking good. Blue doesn’t hold up well on hair and may fade to an ugly green after only a few weeks.  She also thinks at twenty Kim’s daughter is an adult and needs to have adult hair – which is not blue.  If she wants to have a little fun with color, she recommends purchasing blue hair extensions instead.  The one below can be purchased here for $9.99.

What is really happening here?
You are both treating your daughter like a child and she is acting like one. Do you really think your husband forced you daughter to break up with her boyfriend?  I don’t.  I think she broke up with him because she wanted to.  If she didn’t want to break up with him she would have told you they broke up just to get her stuff back then continued to see him behind your back.   Check out this post where I answered a question on how to get your daughter to break up with a loser. (Short answer - you can’t.) I also think your daughter knows her frivolous spending irritates her dad which is why she asks for things like blue hair.

You and your husband need to stop playing good cop/bad cop in regards to money. It isn’t good for your relationship with your husband or your relationship with your daughter. I suggest the three of you sit down and go over your daughter’s fixed expenses.  I’m sure $400 is not enough to cover rent, food, utilities, gas and other miscellaneous school expenses. You and your husband need to agree on an amount you are both willing to give your daughter each month then you Kim can’t give her more after the fact. Be very clear how much you are giving her then let her know she will be responsible for the rest.  Instead of saying I’ll pay $75 for this, but I won’t pay for that, just give her $500 and let her manage her own money. I would be very surprised if her credit card spending does not go down once she has to dip into her own savings.

Do you require your children pay a portion of their expenses while in college? How did you determine how much to give them? Did you ever try to manipulate their decisions with money or stuff?

Note I am an Amazon affiliate.

Disease Called Debt

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Problem with Recruiting Companies

When my employee resigned resigned last year, our human resource manager decided to use a staffing agency to replace her.   She went with a prominent agency who sold us on temp-to-perm. The perfect candidate had just walked through their door and could start the next day. We wouldn’t even have to interview her. Instead, we’d conduct a working interview – evaluate her work for one full day for free.  If we felt she was a good fit we’d keep her, if not they would provide a new candidate. 

I reviewed the candidate’s resume which looked promising.  She had 7-years of solid accounts payable experience. She had left the payables job a year ago after a management change. Since her degree had been in marketing, she had decided to try to get into her field by taking a job in retail.  After a year of working retail she now thought she had made a mistake and wanted to get back into accounting.  I agreed to the working interview.

My current employee had two weeks remaining of her 3-week notice. I wanted her replacement to get as much training with her as possible. When the temp she showed up the next day – five minutes late – I introduced her to my current employee who immediately began the training process.

At the end of the day I met with the temp.  We talked about her accounting background. She provided some great ideas to improve the efficiencies of our payable systems.  Of course I was impressed.  She did say she would have a hard time making our 8:00 start time because she needed to wait until after her daughter was on the bus.  We agreed to an 8:15 start time. After working for us 90-days, if all went well I told her we would offer her a permanent position.

She was a great employee for about a month.  Then the 8:15 became 8:30.  Sometimes it was 9:00 and even 10:00.  There was always an excuse and most of the time she called in: she had a tooth ache, she needed emergency dental surgery, her daughter missed the bus, she was sick, her daughter was sick, her car wouldn’t start, her sister needed a ride, her car wouldn’t start again and lastly she had forgotten to take out the garbage. I’d had enough.  I gave her a warning.  She needed to be at work every day on or before 8:00 for the next 3-weeks, not 8:15, but 8:00 or I was not going to make her a permanent employee.  I also gave her work related goals.  Forget about all those great ideas she had; she wasn’t coming close to keeping up with the daily work. 

The next day she was 5 minutes late. She continued to be 5 – 10 minutes late every day for about two weeks.  Then she woke up with a stomach ache and called in saying she would be a couple of hours late.  I was done. My boss didn’t even get a vote – he still liked her ideas.  I called the agency requesting a new candidate.  The agency provided a new temp in two days.

The funny thing is in follow up conversations with the agency they told me there was a note in my previous temp’s file:

She had called 2 weeks earlier (the day I had given her the warning) and asked the agency to reassign her.  She didn’t like our processes and didn’t want to work for me.

No one at the agency had bothered to let us know. 

We were offered discounts for our new temp.  They also performed a background and reference check on our previous temp. Based on their discoveries, which they wouldn’t share, they weren’t going to use her again.

My new temp worked is a gem and after 90 days she became a permanent employee. 

One day shortly after my new temp became permanent she shared her experience working with this employment agency. Her job with my company had not been her first temp-to-perm position. She had been with a different company previous to ours.  This company offered her a permanent position.  She told the agency she didn’t want the job.  She didn’t like the work and her office was in the basement.  It reminded her of the mailroom in the movie Elf.

The agency wouldn’t take no for an answer telling her to think about it.  They called her a few days later and gave her one of the strongest sales pitches she has ever been subjected to, but she stayed firm and said no.

Now I know why the agency never told me us my previous temp had asked to be reassigned:

They were trying to change her mind.

The problem with recruiting agencies (or at least this one) is that they are only concerned with the sale. They don’t seem to care about the companies they are working for or their recruits.  They just want to earn a commission.  And what is up with not performing background and reference checks prior to a permanent offer?  I was told this is standard policy. I can’t help but wonder if our HR manager would have recruited this candidate instead of the agency we would have spotted something and not wasted almost three months of training time.

Have you had a bad experience with a recruiting company?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A "Savvy" New Year

If I could summarize 2015 in one word it would have to be “overwhelming.” It began with having a stressful year-end close after the company I work for had its busiest December ever – I am the accounting manager. Then the day after our year-end audit was completed one of my employees resigned. Her replacement didn’t work out, but of course we didn’t discover she was inept until after she had incorrectly posted a month and a half of payables. I spent most of the summer correcting her work, training a new hire, a summer intern and lastly a part-time employee. On my summer intern’s last day she told me she would never want a job like mine because it seemed - overwhelming.

The good news is after numerous meetings and discussions with my boss and company owners they authorized me to hire a part-time employee. She is awesome and for the first time in the 16-years I’ve been at this company I have someone to help me with “MY” work. So far, I am experiencing the easiest January I’ve ever had. There are rumors that we switching our business software in 2016, so this lull in my workload is most likely temporary. 

I started 2015 with the goal to live healthy on a budget. Living healthy quickly went awry as I began working eleven hour days. I stopped going to the gym and became a frequent visitor to the work candy bowl. Once work settled down, I cancelled my gym membership and joined Jazzercise which is a better fit for me. Their location and class schedule is more convenient and I find the classes more enjoyable and injury free.

But I didn’t get back to working out on a regular basis, until Jazzercise announced their holiday challenge. If I worked out 20 times between November 15 and December 24th, I would win a cosmetic bag:

I didn’t need or want the bag, but I enjoyed to process of signing in each night and working towards an achievable goal.  With one day to spare, I am happy to announce I took home the little bag.

There is a new challenge for February – attend 30 classes in 35 days and win a tank top.  I know this isn’t a doable challenge for me.  With my work schedule and other priorities I can't realistically attend more than 25 classes.  The Jazzercise owner seemed dejected when I told her so.  She wants everyone to succeed.

Which brings me to my birthday challenge - to become savvy at 53. Back in July I set a goal to read 200 nonfiction books in five years.  The premise is 200-500 books is the equivalent of one good mentor. To date I have read ten books:

1. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

2. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown

3. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

4. Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva by Rosemary Sullivan

5. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof

6. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Talibanby Malala Yousafzai

7. The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys' Clubby Eileen Pollack

8. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

9. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

10. Bad Feministby Roxane Gay

At this rate I’m not going to make my goal, but I don’t want to quit.  So instead I’m giving myself an attainable goal for 2016 - I plan to read 30 nonfiction books.   

Another piece to becoming savvy at 53 is to write down 10 ideas a day. I am happy to report I have kept up with this and have several post ideas I hope to share in the future. My ultimate goal is to bring back Ask Savvy which are my favorite blogging posts.

What are your goals for 2016?  Are they realistic and attainable?

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sunday, December 06, 2015

How to Get Paid on Time

Stefanie O'Connell, a small business owner, recently wrote about depleting her emergency fund in The Growing Pains of Business Ownership. She writes:
Though my earnings have climbed exponentially over the past two years, I found myself this Friday transferring the last of my emergency fund savings into my checking account – just enough to cover my near-term expenses. Despite successfully maintaining my savings through the financial crisis, unemployment and years as a part-time actress, part-time babysitter, my back-up balances have now dwindled down to nothing.

Invoices are out, but payments have yet to come in. Meanwhile, bills are still due at their usual times and my expenses are up in order to maintain my new business growth.
Since I have worked with accounts payable in some format during my entire career as an accountant, I’ve decided to provide a few tips to help Stefanie and others like her get their invoices paid on time.

First, you need to understand your client’s payment processes. Here is how invoices are paid at my company:

Every invoice must be approved by a department manager before it can be paid.
The payment process at my company is sped up substantially if you can get your invoice into the hands of the person authorized to approve it as quickly as possible. If it arrives in accounting without a purchase order number listed or a name or the location of the person who ordered your product or service it could sit in accounting for days until we determine who needs to approve it.

Securing a purchase order number is not required but is important:
Not only does a purchase order number help identify who placed the order, but having one means your service or product was pre-approved. If the invoice price matches the purchase order price the department manager should easily be able to approve your invoice and forward it to accounting.

We pay in 60 days:
Yes that is correct - 60 days. Regardless of your terms, unless you are a phone or utility company, charge us late fees or interest, offer a discount for early payment, won’t ship future product unless we comply with your terms, or are one of our top six major vendors your invoice won’t be paid for 60 days. (During the recession it was 90 days. Currently our owner would like it to be 45, but at the moment we don’t have the staff to process fast enough). We do make exceptions for freelancers and sub-contractors which we pay within 30 days. We also honor progress payment deadlines for major purchases and projects if we have approved invoices.

Who determines when an invoice is paid?
In my company it is the controller.  The person who ordered your service can request we pay you quicker, but he has no authority to make that happen and has been instructed not to make promises or negotiate with you.  They can try to go around the controller to our President, but the President almost always sends them back to the controller.  Neither the President nor the person who contracted with you know what other financial commitments and obligations are pressing.

We haven’t paid you because our customer hasn’t paid us:
For large products or services we resell to our customers we don’t pay you until we are paid. If we are slow invoicing our customer or receiving payment from them this could be what is holding up your payment. Many companies do this – it is called managing cash flow.

A friend who owns her own business refuses to work with a large company in our area because they utilize this practice when paying their subs. She wasn’t getting paid for 60-90 days, but still needed to pay her employees their weekly payroll check. Once her business was well established, she stopped working for this company.

We require a W-9 form be completed before we will issue a check.
This is an IRS form we need on file to prepare your 1099 at the end of the year. We have discovered if our vendors don’t fill this form out prior to us issuing them a check we struggle to get them. If you don’t know how to fill it out yourself have your accountant provide an unsigned master copy. Then make photo copies of it, sign and submit to clients as needed.

When checking our credit references you should hear good things about us:
Remember those six major vendors we pay in 30 days, they are who we list as references on our credit report along with a company whose owner was once an employee of our company. We pay him in 70 days, but when contacted about payment (especially during the recession when we stretched payment to everyone) he always said good things about us. If we get feedback that a vendor has indicated we are a slow payer we remove them from the list. To get a more accurate indication of our payments check our Dun and Bradstreet report.

Also on a side note, our credit manager does not respond to 95% of the requests he receives on behalf of our customers. He doesn’t want to be put in the situation of angering or lying for a customer, so instead says nothing.

If we haven’t paid you in 60 days we most likely don’t have your invoice.
Send statements. I recommend sending one to the person you contracted with and to accounting. If accounting doesn't have your invoice we will request a copy. We then follow up with the department manager. Occasionally they are holding your invoice because they are not satisfied with your work, but most likely your invoice was lost.

Make sure your contact information is on your invoice:
Include your company name, email address and phone number on your invoice, you would be surprised how often this information is not included.  Also, have clear instructions on who the check should be made out to and the remittance address.

Submit a new invoice for each progress payment:
Don’t assume someone at our company is keeping track of your progress payments. Maybe the employee you contracted with is, but most likely they are not and I can guarantee accounting is not. 

Offer a discount:
Unless we are cash-strapped we always take advantage of cash discounts for early payment. Either 1 or 2% off the invoice price is the most frequent discount offered, but I have seen 3%. (My company does not offer pre-payment discounts to our customers. We don’t want them to get used to paying less and then expect it).

Other tips

Call to ask about payment three or four days after payment was due:
The longer your bill goes unpaid the harder it will be to collect. Good luck getting an invoice paid if the person you contracted with is no longer at the company and the company has no record of the order. And speaking of due dates make sure you’ve indicated your terms on the invoice.

Be nice:
The person in accounting who takes your collection call does not need to be berated or to hear what a low-life scum they are. It is almost never their fault your invoice hasn’t been paid. If you are nice to them or befriend them they may look out for you and your invoices in the future.

Ask for an exception:
In a major cash crunch like the one Stefanie is experiencing above, ask if your invoice could be paid earlier than the terms agreed upon. Only do this if your project is on schedule and the company is happy with your work. Offer to pick up the check or have it mailed to you overnight at your cost. Offer additional discounts above what is stated on the invoice. We have been offered as much as 5%. Give a deadline – by the end of the week or by the end of the month; you don’t want them to take their good old time and still take the 5%. This is also where befriending the accounts payable person comes in handy. More than once my A/P person has asked if she could pay a bill early at a vendor’s request. She will tell me how nice they were, that they are just a small business, that they are in a bind etc. If we have the money, I always say yes.

You could also ask to have the money wired into your bank account.  You would then have your money the same day.  At my company this is a hassle because it involves additional steps and layer of approval.  I usually say no to these requests.

Don’t forget about credit card processing fees:
If you accept credit card payments you most likely are charged a fee by your credit card processing company. My company pays 2.5% on customer credit card receipts. We pass this fee on to our customers for sales larger than $25,000. On a personal level, I have worked with more than one contractor who charges extra if I want to pay with a credit card.

Have your customer sign a contract:
If you are large enough, have your contract verbiage reviewed and/or written by your legal consul.

Did I miss anything? What do you do to insure your invoices are paid on time?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich,

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Do I Need to Attend Manager’s Party?

Remember my company’s HR Manager; the owner's family friend who personally attacked me, has caused problems in my department for years and was the impetus for my strength challenge. Well she is back at it again. The other day she called me into her office to complain about my boss and the employee we share. She proceeded to say how unhappy the owners are with both of them and that they were going to have a serious talk with my boss about his attitude along with my employee’s performance. Also, in the New Year my awesome new part-time employee is going to be working for her instead of me and I will be stuck with the employee she doesn't like full-time. Oh and by the way she is having a party at her home for all the corporate managers and their spouses in December. She thinks it will be a good opportunity for all of us to meet outside of work and that it will help with team building which our management staff desperately needs.

My head began to spin. I went back to my office and tried to work, but kept thinking my boss, who has been with the company 30+ years, was going to say to heck with this B.S. and retire. How will I manage if he leaves? I wondered down the hall into our operations manager’s office. Our HR manager also has issues with him, but feels she now has him wrapped around her finger. I told him this and relayed the entire conversation to him. He said, "It is all a lie."  None of this is going to happen; the owners aren’t going to talk to my boss, they aren't upset with him or with my employee and they would never allow my new part-time employee to be transferred from accounting to HR. 

I started to feel better and got up to leave saying, “I don’t think I’m up to going to her party.” Surprisingly he already knew about the party and had even discussed it with one of our owners. The owner is not fond of these types of events, because other employees hear of them, think they are company events and feel excluded. He advised our operation’s manager who also doesn’t want to attend, to have his wife drive and get drunk on our HR manager’s booze. The operations manager recommended I do the same.

In my fitness class that night, I couldn’t help but vent about my day. As I rattled off my list of complaints, one of my gym mates kept interjecting incredibly intelligent comments. Finally, I asked her where she worked.  She was self-employed, a writer and a leadership instructor. Who was she? Susan Marshall of the Backbone Institute.

I now know how I will respond when I meet someone I admire in person – I become a blubbering idiot. I read Susan’s column every month in Wisconsin Woman Magazine. Her October column "Good News About You" is currently sitting on my night stand with the following paragraph underlined:
Aggressive people are no more confident than you are. However, they have learned how to use their voices, posture and position to get what they want. When you understand this and refuse to be bullied by it, you gain freedom to go about your business in a professional manner. You need not try to change them, but you don’t need to be cowed by them either.
As to the holiday party, I still wanted to decline, but was concerned I would be missing out on the team building. Will not going be a bad career move?

 “NO," Susan replied, "Not going is called setting boundaries.”

Susan Marshall’s book Of Beauty and Substance: A Backbone Guide for Womenhas been on my reading list since I first heard of it. I went home and ordered a copy.

Have you been invited to a co-worker's house party you dreaded attending? Did you go?

Note, I am an Amazon affiliate.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

My Year in Nonfiction - 2015

Woo-Hoo – it’s nonfiction November!

I’ve been reading nonfiction almost exclusively for several years now, so I am excited Kim, Becca, Lu, and Katie are hosting Nonfiction November - a month dedicated to reading and celebrating nonfiction - again this year.

This week Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness asks about our year in reading. I’ve read 17 nonfiction books to-date in 2015. Here they are in chronological order along with my opinions:

French Women Don't Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitudeby Mireille Guiliano
Intrigued by the title, I picked this one up from the library on a whim. I had read Guiliano's previous book French Women Don't Get Fatseveral years earlier and was looking for a book dedicated to appearance. Unfortunately, this book was mostly a recap of her previous work and was disappointing.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Businessby Charles Duhigg
I enjoyed this one while reading, but no longer remember much of it - except for the horrible story of casinos taking advantage of a woman with a gambling addiction.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch--Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foodsby Jennifer Reese 
I read this one for my live healthy on a budget challenge. Despite being entertaining and informative, I never made a single recipe from the book.

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A. J. Jacobs
This is another book that wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted practical, researched health tips, instead this book read like a gimmick.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gainby Portia de Rossi
A must read for anyone wanting to learn what it is like to have an eating disorder. De Rossi provides an honest account of what was going on inside her head while suffering from anorexia and bulimia.

Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peaceby Ran Zilca
This one offered good advice, but I was left wanting more.

Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker
A bit dated, but still informative.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I know many of you loved this book, but it didn’t work for me and I now find Amy Poehler annoying. I was looking for more of a feminist manifesto. It seemed to me Amy didn’t really want to write this book and only did so because she couldn’t find a way to get out of it. I preferred Tina Fey’s Bossypants.

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Doby Clotaire Rapaille
I don’t have any comments on this one because I can’t remember anything of substance from this book.

Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change and What to Do about Itby Vivian Diller Ph.D.
I read this one after spotting it on a list of recommended reading for a female mid-life crisis. It was a decent book written by a psychologist that deals with understanding the emotions women experience as we age. (To be honest, so far I'm not too concerned about my aging looks).

The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness by James Altucher
I read this over the summer when I was feeling overwhelmed at work. I wasn’t expecting it to offer anything new and didn’t plan on finishing it, so I was surprised by how helpful it actually was.

Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World by Megan Feldman Bettencourt
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This was a great study of forgiveness.

Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life by Jane Pauley
This book was a light and somewhat informative book on reinvention.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
This is the best book I've read all year and have been recommending it to everyone. In addition to teaching me about racial history and the great migration, it provided an eye-opening lesson on living in the moment. This is the book I think about most often.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Areby Brene Brown
This book taught me that comparison is the cause for much of our unhappiness and that creativity is the key to meaning. It is a good self-help book.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I read this one to learn more about living in the moment, it was helpful, but I started losing interest towards the end.

Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyevaby Rosemary Sullivan:
I loved this book. It provided insight into Stalin, his family and life in Russia during and immediately after his regime. Life for Svetlana doesn’t necessarily get better when she defects to the US. She was looking for freedom, but wasn't prepared for our freedom of the press. The chapters she writes about Ogilvanna Wright (the wife of Frank Lloyd Wright) and Taliesin are highly entertaining and not favorable.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwideby Nicholas D. Kristof:
I have 20 pages left to read in this book, but want to mention it because I am sure it will go down as one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.

This process of listing my year of books has been an enlightening experience. I see a pattern of trying to come to terms with my age, searching for help in dealing with work stress and attempting to figure out what to do next. I also realized I don’t want to write about health and have abandoned my life healthy challenge. I am hoping reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is the beginning of a new direction for me.

Books from this list I’ve recommended the most:
The Warmth of Other Suns and Stalin’s Daughter.

What nonfiction topic do you not read enough of?
I am always reading to learn something new or to fulfill a book challenge I've set for myself or to write a review I’ve committed to. I’d like to spend more time reading nonfiction - that reads like fiction  - with the sole purpose being to read a really good book.

My reading picks for nonfiction November are:

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreamsby Alfred Lubrano

What are you reading for Nonfiction November? What was your favorite nonfiction read this year?

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate